On April 25, 2000, Telarc Records will release Son Seals' first studio album in over five years and the debut recording for his new label. As a man who not only plays the blues, but who has lived them as well, the new CD finds the venerable Mr. Seals in fine form with his distinctive guitar and characteristic gritty vocals. Since his birth as Frank "Son" Seals in Osceola, Arkansas in 1942, Seals has had his share of dramatic events in his life. In 1997, Seals had to have his jaw reconstructed after being shot in the face by his now ex-wife. Then last year, Seals had to have his lower left leg amputated due to complications from diabetes. This is clear evidence that Son Seals is a true "blues survivor."
"Lettin' Go" is described as the "rebirth" of Son Seals. In support of this claim, eleven of the fourteen songs on "Lettin' Go" were written or co-written by Seals, including an updated version of his classic, "Funky Bitch." Throw in a great backing band that includes Al Kooper on organ, Jimmy Vivino on rhythm guitar and a guest appearance by Trey Anastasio, guitarist for Phish, playing lead guitar on "Funky Bitch."
The songs on "Lettin' Go," benefit from a full 10 piece band, providing a great full blown, horn-laced sound. Two songs on the CD, "Bad Blood" and "Doc's Blues," are co-written by crime fiction writer Andrew Vachss, who also provides a short story for the liner notes.
"Lettin' Go" is a long CD, with over 70 minutes of hard driving Chicago blues. Seals' guitar stands out on several songs including "Give The Devil His Due," "Let It Go," "Dear Son" and "Osceola Rock," a Seals' original that sounds a lot like a reworded version of Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock." "Hair On A Frog" not only features a strong lead by Seals, but also an excellent sax solo by Jerry Vivino. On "Jelly Jelly," Al Kooper provides one of his trademark solos on the Hammond B-3, exchanging solos with Seals over the 7+ minute song.
Six of the last seven songs on the CD are original Son Seals creations, with no co-writers, and represent some of the best songs on the recording. Seals has a distinctive writing style that is apparent in the similarities on each of these songs. However, each song offers a special nuance that makes each song unique from the others. For instance, "I Got Some Of My Money" includes a another fine Hammond B-3 solo by Al Kooper. Kooper's fabulous keyboard work is also evident on "Bad Luck Child," the only song on the second half of the CD that was not written by Seals. "Blues Holy Ghost" and the finale, "Funky Bitch," are pure Seals, with "Funky Bitch" made even more interesting thanks a guest appearance by Trey Anastasio on lead guitar.
Having recently seen Son Seals perform live, I can attest to the fact that he seems to be as strong as ever musically. The excellence evident on "Lettin' Go" gives notice that Son Seals is still a force to be reckoned with in the blues. I suggest that you get your own copy of "Lettin' Go" as soon as it is available, as it is sure to be a multiple nominee for next year's W. C. Handy Awards and perhaps even a Grammy. For further information updates on "Lettin' Go," check out the Telarc Records website at www.telarc.com.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.